Update from the Provost: Welcome to the Fall Semester

Sent: August 30, 2023

From: Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this note finds you well and somewhat settled as the second week of the semester commences. I wanted to begin this semester by thanking all the staff, department chairs and directors, and administrators who have worked hard over the summer to make sure we could enroll our largest first-year class ever, 4500 students! Our advising community has stepped up in a significant way this summer, helping students enroll, while also supporting a re-enrollment campaign that has helped thousands of returning students. In addition, faculty and professional staff advisors have matriculated another ~3000 new transfer students. Many faculty members had to tackle new preparations as our course schedules shifted over the summer as well. This enrollment is critical at a time when the California State University system is examining how it will fund campuses in the future as enrollments continue to shift throughout the state. I want to also recognize the team in the College of Science, who in partnership with FD&O has done a tremendous amount of work this summer, preparing to launch our first classes in the new Interdisciplinary Science Building. Department chairs and directors along with associate deans and deans have also had to deliver a course schedule that accommodates all our students while also addressing the challenges of a budget cut this year. 

As I enter my fifth year as provost, I want to reflect on our current condition and offer some comments on what I think that condition means for SJSU. As you are all well aware by now, the campus has a structural deficit that required Academic Affairs to cut $7M from its base budget this year. We have managed about half of that amount at the divisional level, leveraging resources to offset cuts while also tightening budgets across central departments and programs. This allowed us to maintain the RSCA program, continue investing in our faculty by funding all qualified sabbatical this year, and onboard a cohort of 40 new tenured/tenure-track faculty. Despite that work, there is still a $3.5M cut in the colleges, which has largely come from operations and the instructional budget. While these cuts certainly present challenges, it is noteworthy that we are 60%+ of the campus budget, but our percentage of the overall base budget cut this year is just over 30% of the total cuts realized. In short, the administration has tried to cut strategically while moving toward a more balanced budget. 

There is more to learn about where we are and what has driven these challenges and I encourage everyone to attend the Budget Summit on September 14th. I will follow the discussion at the campus budget event by hosting a second Divisional Budget Summit in October, where I will delve deeper into what was presented in the spring semester. I plan to focus on alternative enrollment models that involve leveraging PaCE program growth and dig deeper into how changes in our student enrollments impact our everyday budget reality. I have also asked Vice President Abousalem to join me at this summit to share the overall budget picture for the Division of Research and Innovation. I think it is important that everyone has a chance to better understand what is happening in our research and innovation areas.

While this budget environment is less than ideal and no one relishes the impact that comes with budget retrenchment, what I have learned over the last four years is that we cannot retreat at this time. We have to assess what we are doing, make hard decisions about what we can afford and what we can’t afford, and then invest to continue the upward trajectory this campus has seen despite a pandemic. This means we also need to look toward ways to bring resources to the campus. We must therefore become more aggressive in our enrollment goals, focusing not only on our historical “bread and butter”—CA first-year and transfer students—but also non-resident US-based students, international students, and the often mislabeled “non-traditional students,” adult learners who now make up up the majority of college-going students in the United States. 

Entering year five, I remain excited about what we can do and where we can go. There is no question that SJSU is well positioned to meet its new enrollment goals, streamline processes that make our campus a challenge to navigate for students, faculty, and staff, and continue to create more pathways for students to realize their own success. 

I want to thank you for doing so much work to prepare for this semester. Despite the budget situation, I remain optimistic about SJSU and what this community can and will do to support our students, advance our mission as a leading (and critical) voice in our community, and leverage the faculty and staff talent on our campus to address some of our society’s most important questions through our robust RSCA program. 

As always, please reach out if you have any questions.